Medicine At Midnight may be Foo Fighters’ biggest change in sound yet, so we got Nate Mendel to give us a pre-review breakdown of the album.
We’re finally in the homestretch for the release of Foo Fighters’ 10th studio album, Medicine At Midnight, and having had the good fortune of getting a preview of the entire thing, I’m happy to tell fans old and new that they won’t be disappointed.
Whether or not Medicine At Midnight ranks as one of the Foo Fighters’ finest efforts is in the eye of the beholder, but it is undeniably the band’s most sonically expansive work yet.
Having talked to guitarist Chris Shiflett about how COVID-19 affected the band’s album plans, followed by a chat with bassist Nate Mendel about performing live after lockdown, and then getting the pair of them to tell me all about the lead single off Medicine At Midnight, ‘Shame Shame’, I had the opportunity to chat to Nate again now that I’ve listened to the album.
But having exhausted my list of questions last time, I decided to do something a bit different this time around and got him to break down every single song on Medicine At Midnight.
So get ready folks because we’ve good a Foo Fighter sharing his thoughts about the entirety of Medicine At Midnight is a loose, pseudo-review, behind-the-scenes kind of way.
‘Making a Fire’
“For me that’s the background vocals on that one are kind of the thing that really stands out for it. It’s something that we haven’t really done before and it’s sort of a signature part of the song.
“And sticks out for me as kind of the hook of the song and I like that because yeah, that’s kind of a bit of a departure to have the you know, a group of background singers be such a big part of what we’re doing.
“You know, and that’s… it’s a good way to start the record too because it just sets the tone that this is going to be like a poppier record and we’re going to you know, set up to do some things that might not be as expected.”
“Well I think it’s kind of cool lyrical territory for Dave to dive into that subject. Because it’s so rich and that idea of you know, shame obviously.
“And it’s a powerful emotion and it’s like kind of I like the juxtaposition of the darker lyrics with the kind of you know, again like really sparse arrangement. It’s not so much of a rock song. It’s just got like a simple kind of poppy riff and a drum loop, which is something that we don’t usually do.
“So it’s written around a drum loop, which is kind of cool. And particularly the kind of snappy percussion thing that Dave does with his fingers in that. That’s what kind of sets the drum part apart and I don’t know, it’s a cool foundation to kind of explore that theme.”
About playing ‘Shame ‘Shame’ live: “It’s weird because we haven’t played it in front of an audience. Even when we did it on Saturday Night Live. It was a live audience there but it’s you know, it’s a group of six people spread you know, 12-feet apart so it doesn’t really have the vibe of an audience.
“So I can’t really say. I’m curious to see what that… how that’s going to slot into our set. Because it’s a bit, you know, there’s not another song in our set that really has that kind of vibe to it or dynamic. And figuring out where it’s going to work is going to be kind of interesting.”
About the 25-year-old riff that finally made it into the song: “I think that riff was kind of shoe horned in there and it works you know. Sometimes having you know, unexpected changes works for a song. Sometimes it just obviously doesn’t. It’s just like that sounds wrong. And I think it works for this one.
“You know, you’ve got this wide open, very dancey groove. It’s basically a groovy verse and then right into like a heavy, sort of heavy new wave-ish riff in the chorus. It’s kind of like two songs put together. And I think it works.”
About what ‘Cloudspotter’ means: “Yeah you’ll have to talk to Dave about that one, I’m not sure whatever metaphor’s going with that one!”
‘Waiting On A War’
“That song is maybe a more conventional Foo Fighters song I think. Except for you know, the fact that you know, so much of it’s sort of acoustic at the top.
“And then it just… it builds into a crescendo, which is kinda cool. I don’t know you know, that’s where it’s going to fit in the tracks of the song. You’ve gotta find a space for everything and that was… that’s where it landed.”
About what inspired ‘Waiting On A War’: “I know that it kind of sparked from a dream Dave had when he was a kid. And it goes back to kind of like 70’s innocence and you know, that thing that if you’re of our generation you know, younger people aren’t going to know this.
“But you know… like I had the same thing when I was a kid where I had dreams where you know, there were mushroom clouds out in the distance and you were always kind of waiting for the bomb to drop. It was always in your subconscious that that could happen. And you know, the lyrics kind of grew out of that you know, adolescent paranoia.”
‘Medicine At Midnight’
“‘Medicine At Midnight’ you know, nothing’s going to be too direct but you know, I think it probably has something to do with… I don’t even know if I want to get into the details on that one. That’s the thing with lyrics, you kind of just want to use your imagination with them. Rather than not everything laid out, right?
About how ‘Medicine At Midnight’ came about musically: “That’s another drum loop and that’s another you know, song with a lot of space in it and a groovier kind of funkier vibe than the titles we’re used to doing. And it just you know, fell in with the directive of the album. Like ‘let’s try to have some space and do some stuff that’s more groove orientated!'”
‘No Son of Mine’
“Well this one for me was a little more challenging, because it felt you know, there was a bit of a tug between how we ordinarily do songs. Which is recording them more live to tape and just kind of sitting in a room and playing versus how most of this record was done, which is kind of like constructing things from the ground up. You know, from a drum beat and just kind of layering things on top, as more of a studio project. And so I think it turned out great.
“But getting to that point for me I was like, I was a bit skeptical. Because it’s more of a conventional Foo Fighters song, so it felt like it needed to have that conventional Foo Fighters approach to it.
“And having the like slicker production and the kind of you know, more pop music approach from Greg Kirsten was like ‘argh, I don’t know if this is really what this song needs.’ And it just took me a minute to kind of like get into it and see it in a different light.
“It’s a great riff. That’s the thing with that song, is it’s like well this is heavier stuff. Like ‘let’s just take it all the way there,’ you know. But it’s like I said, it pulls against the kind of like simpler and cleaner kind of template for the record.”
“I’m going to disappoint you on [this] one. ‘Holding Poison’ was like… it’s like those moments on a record where you’re… you create memories.
“And ‘Holding Poison’ just came together so fast. It’s like I don’t even… I can’t even remember how we did that song. I’m so sorry!”
“This is one thing I love about Dave’s songwriting. He gets into those kind of you know, Beatles chords and chord progressions and prettier more complex chords and you know, it’s a nice kind of palette cleanser on a record.
“It’s a moment, you know, a chance to like show off a different part of Dave’s range and just kind of a pretty song that you know, it’s a little bit of a breather. One we’ll absolutely never play live [laughs].
“It just does not fit into… it’s an album track, you know. It’s something that you can put on a record and enjoy doing, and listening to. But you know, it’s probably not going to make it into the live set, because it’s just it’s more contemplative and listenable.”
‘Love Dies Young’
About how the riff was reminiscent of Heart’s ‘Barracuda’: Oh I know what you’re talking about! Yeah, of course. Right. Yeah, it’s… that one I thought it might be like the song on the record when it was finished. Like ‘oh this is like, this is a barn burner.’
“But you know, some other songs rose to the top and it didn’t make the cut in that way. But it’s a great song. It’s really immediate, catchy song. You know, it’s a great one to close it off with. Yeah.”